While the “Amazing Race” teams were in Abu Dhabi this week, I’m on an Amazing Race of my own. Well, that’s not exactly true. I’m not racing anybody or anywhere, but I am in New Orleans for a movie set visit. Monday (November 11) is a travel day for me, but Mondays are also my regular days for “Amazing Race” exit interviews. Time and place to do that interview would have been a complication tomorrow, but I’d have made it work. However, I was basically certain that we were heading in the direction of a Non-Elimination Leg, so I didn’t bother making those interview plans.
This time, I assumed correctly. [It was only a month ago that I’d reckoned that the Chile-to-Portugal Leg would be an NEL, but instead I ended up chatting with Chester & Ephraim from a quiet corner of a Las Vegas hotel.]
Sunday night’s “Amazing Race” was not, however, actually about me, so let’s move on to a quick recap. There was some drama in the Leg and there were some decent tasks, even if I’d never call a Non-Elimination Leg “good.”
The first thing I found notable about Sunday’s Leg was seeing how tight the teams were after last week’s dismal Leg in which nobody was able to use the Fast-Forward and the teams all picked the same Detour. Less than an hour separated the six teams and then we began with a near-Equalizer going from Vienna to Abu Dhabi, UAE. I say *near*-Equalizer because Afghanimals Leo & Jamal got excited that they were going back to The Motherland and proceeded to get on a flight that arrived 10 minutes ahead of the other five teams, as they continued their cultural karma to their first Leg win of the season. [There’s probably no point in quibbling that Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates aren’t even neighboring countries. They’re separated by a strait of water and a big chunk of Iran. The way the show probably wants to look at things is that if the Middle Eastern contestants are willing to pretend that one Middle Eastern country is pretty much the same as then next, then it’s all good. Since “Amazing Race” probably wasn’t going to Kabul, this is as good as it would get for the Afghanimals, so they might as well get a win.]
While our perception of UAE focuses largely on urban development and skyscrapers (and, probably, on Dubai), the Leg started off with a clue received in a Mosque. That meant that the contestants had to be sedate and respectful, with Tim going so far as to suggest he’d like Marie more if the rest of the season took place in a Mosque. Jason expressed minor discomfort as an American in the region, but didn’t say anything all that problematic or insensitive, while one of the Baseball Wives was progressive enough to say that Muslims get a bad rap and that you shouldn’t judge a whole culture because of the acts of a couple wrong-doers. All things considered, Americans didn’t come off looking as awful in Abu Dhabi as we sometimes do on the show.
The Detour was the choice between Sort It Out or Sew It Up. In Sew It Up, teams just had to make a fishing net. In Sort It Out, teams had to collect an assortment of dates and make an ornate plate displaying the may colors and textures of dates.
My first instinct was that this was Light Brigade or Masquerade all over again, with everybody choosing to do Sew It Up. The description for that Detour was only a sentence long, while the date thing sounded long and complicated. Nope. Four of six teams chose Sort It Out. It looked as if both tasks were potentially annoying and challenging, especially with the UAE sun beating down on you — It looked as if the women were all showing respect with maximum skin coverage, right? — but it didn’t look very much time was impacted.
The minor trick in Sort It Out was that there were many stalls of dates and if you assumed that you were supposed to stay at the immediately proximate stalls and that all reddish dates are alike, then you’d be in trouble. The Afghanimals were there first, but they messed up the plating because they didn’t realize that they had to walk to a far stall to get those red dates. The Baseball Wives identified the far stall and, when asked, declined to share the information. That was pretty hard-core of the Baseball Wives and I wanted to give them credit for that, but that knowledge didn’t help them make up any time. In fact, the Baseball Wives found the red dates ahead of the other three teams, but the other teams eventually found the red dates and finished before the Baseball Wives. I don’t know why that was.
The only interesting part of that task was the escalating fighting between Tim & Marie. It was the same stuff we’ve seen several times this season, but it may have been one of the louder blow-ups in close quarters with other teams. Nicky called it “embarrassing” and “inappropriate.” Ashley complained, “I think the fighting is ridiculous. It’s kinda annoying.” But Jamal declared, “Marie was just manhandling Tim, which was pretty nice. I think it was hot.”
Meanwhile, the fishnet thing was extremely confusing, not even slightly televisual and became stressful enough that Nicole and Travis got bickery for the first time this season. Nicole took all of the blame and Travis’ impatience was minor. And while the fishnet Detour required some precision, it took roughly as much time as the other Detour, so whatever.
The Roadblock definitely looked like a lot of fun, unless you happened to have a fear of heights and to keep having to do the tasks that involve heights. Jason and Kim has consistently admitted to that minor phobia, but they both keep doing the heigh-based tasks this season. In the Roadblock, you had to drop from 200 feet in a combined zipline/free-fall/rappel. Then you had to get in a race care going around a Formula 1 course and you had to identify the sign with the driver and time that set a track record. If you happened to freak out driving the tight turns of a Formula 1 track, it wasn’t easy to spot the names and the six-digit number. It wasn’t “hard,” but I can see why it also wouldn’t be “easy.”
In the end, the Afghanimals finished first, their first Leg victory of the season. Jason & Amy finished second for the fourth time this season, without winning a Leg. Nicole & Travis finished third, as they continued their run of seven straight Legs without a finish worse than fourth. Time & Marie and Ally & Ashley followed. Kim & Nicky got to Phil Keoghan and as soon as he said their were last to arrive, Kim started crying and talking about wanting to make more memories. I’m not sure how, if you’ve ever watched the show before, you don’t hear Phil say, “You’re the last team to arrive” and then immediately yell “AND?!?” the second he pauses. They were spared.
“We need to get a little bit more fire under our butts,” Nicky declared.
And I need to sleep.
A couple more quick thoughts on this Leg…
*** No real ripples from last week’s TaxiGate. Amy and Jason say they’re keeping their friends close and their enemies closer.
*** Several of the episode’s better comments were in passing and edited such that I don’t know which of the Baseball Wives had the pro-Muslim sentiments, nor do I know which of the Ice Queens had the clever “speed dating” line that gave us our episode title. Tee-hee. Speed dating.
*** My favorite line was Marie’s observation that the Baseball Wives (or maybe just Nicky), “They’re always stretching, sipping tea or putting on makeup.”
*** Actually, Marie had several of my favorite lines in the episode, including “Why is she screaming so much?” in response to Ally, whose reactions to every part of the Roadblock were slightly hilarious. Ally and Kim should do every scary challenge together, so they can just squeal together.
*** Whatever knocked Tim out of the past couple episodes may have passed. He was really funny in this episode and continues to make his pairing likable. Tim noted that even though he and Marie yell at each other, they also still communicate through that yelling. So far, we haven’t seen any evidence to the contrary.
*** Travis & Nicole caught a break not wasting their Express Pass when they got weary at the fishnet-making. They didn’t have enough other teams to compare themselves to, but they made good time on that Detour and you don’t want to use the Express Pass on a Non-Elimination Leg.
That’s enough words about a Non-Elimination Leg. Any thoughts?